UPDATE: SANTA GIVES INTERVIEW. SCROLL TO BOTTOM
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, 60, is a mechanical engineer and the president of Packaging Seals & Engineering. However, in his spare time he is able to dress up as Santa Claus and perform gigs around 80 times a year every holiday season. When Schmitt-Matzen returned home from work one day, he received an urgent phone call from a nurse at a Tennessee hospital where he often performs as Santa for sick children.
In this instance, the nurse said there was a “very sick five-year-old boy” whose final wish was to see Santa Claus before he died. Quickly, Schmitt-Matzen arrived in his festive getup fifteen minutes later, walked inside and saw the critical condition of the boy. As the boy’s relatives watched and cried from a window looking into the Intensive Care Unit, Schmitt-Matzen gave the dying boy a toy from the kid’s television show PAW Patrol.
Schmitt-Matzen revealed details of this one Santa Claus gig that he will never forget:
“I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job…’ He was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep… I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas. Why, you’re my Number One elf!'”
When Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the toy: “He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down.”
Then, the boy asked him the following question: “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
Schmitt-Matzen: “When you get there, you tell them you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.” This comforted and reassured the boy, who gave him a big hug. He then asked what would be his final words: “Santa, can you help me?”
Before Schmitt-Matzen could answer, the boy silently died in his arms. Relatives outside realized what happened, and the boy’s mother came running into the room crying. Schmitt-Matzen reveals it was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences:
“I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him… I handed her son back and left as fast as I could. I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I’ve seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses’ station bawling my head off.”
The emotional experience affected Schmitt-Matzen to the point where he not only wanted to quit his job as Santa, but where he couldn’t go through a planned visit with his grandkids the following day. But then he realized the significant role he played in the boy’s life. He’s back to being Santa.
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